I just finished watching the first season of “The Bear.” Streaming on Hulu, the FX show depicts life behind-the-counter of a beloved greasy spoon in Chicago, called “The Beef.” There’s plenty that will resonate with restaurant lovers in Maryland.
The Beef, full name: The Original Beef of Chicagoland, is a mess, its finances in arrears, equipment failing, drug dealers scaring off customers. Its last owner died by suicide, leaving it to his brother Carmy, an award-winning fine dining chef who’s worked at New York’s top restaurants.
Like Gordon Ramsay taking stock of a neighborhood dive, Carmy sees potential in The Beef, but faces resistance from the old guard, who bristle at his use of French terms in the kitchen and the precise way he cuts vegetables.
It’s a classic setup, but the show feels perfectly suited for our times, tackling topics like mental health, toxic kitchen workplaces and the clash of elevated and casual-dining worlds. (It also features sharp dialogue, gripping performances, and drool-worth close-ups of meals you can practically taste through the screen.)
It’s made me think about how every city has their version of The Beef.
Glen Burnie’s version might be Ann’s Dari-Creme, a roadside institution going back seven decades. (Longtime owners Howard and Thea Pinskey died last year.)
During a recent visit I was impressed by more than the foot-long hot dog and rich vanilla ice cream cone with chocolate dip. Behind the counter, three women took orders and managed an out-the-door lunch rush like nobody’s business.
Fictional Carmy, who goes nuclear on his staff when overwhelmed by an onslaught of orders, could learn a thing or two from this team.
Have you been watching “The Bear”? What restaurants in the Baltimore area does it make you think of? Email me at email@example.com
Atlas expands, again
Speaking of beef from Chicago; you’ll soon be able to get a steak from the windy city right here in Baltimore.
Atlas Restaurant Group, which operates high-end establishments like Maximón and Bygone in the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore is at the polar opposite of the dining spectrum from greasy spoons like “The Beef.”
This week, spokesman Joe Sweeney announced the company will be taking over a 10,000-square-foot space next to the Waterfront Marriott that was previously occupied by Fleming’s Steakhouse, which shuttered in 2020.
In its place will be a 200-seat steakhouse with a large wine cellar, a restaurant that “will compete with the legendary steakhouses of New York City and Chicago as far as scale and scope,” according to a release.
What about the beef? That will come from Chicago’s Meats by Linz. Sweeney said in an email: “We will also have a large dry aging facility on-site that we will be using to dry age meat for all of our Baltimore area restaurants.”
Attached to the steakhouse will be a 30-seat cocktail bar hosting nightly live jazz performances. Both spaces will get a major overhaul with new interior design from Patrick Sutton.
In a statement, Atlas CEO Alex Smith said the company’s “investment and commitment to Baltimore will not just last a matter of days, months or years but it will span generations.”
It’s getting hard to keep up with all the new business Atlas is taking on. Within the past few months, they’ve taken on a more dominant role in Cross Street Market, including management of two bars. They also took over the Oregon Grille and Valley Inn in Baltimore County, are reopening the James Joyce in Harbor East, and added the Waterfront Hotel to their portfolio. Beyond Baltimore’s borders, Parlour Victoria is set to open in Washington’s Moxy Hotel.
This month, Annapolis welcomed a second branch of the Choptank (the first is in Fells Point).
The Hanover takes a beat
Around a year after launching in Brooklyn, The Hanover is on hiatus.
Owner Drew Pumphrey says his three business partners backed out of the project for personal reasons, leaving him to run the restaurant solo.
Pumphrey has been struggling to manage the bar and restaurant while also keeping up with the demand for orders through his Smoking Swine food truck, which has been catering corporate events and weddings during the past few months. So he decided to shut down the Hanover temporarily.
Pumphrey says he plans to reopen the restaurant’s carryout window in just a few weeks. One issue is a shortage of staff to manage the full restaurant.
“We just can’t find anybody to work. I literally had a situation where I put in an ad on indeed. I got 40 applications. I called them all up, I set up interviews...,” he says, but only one person showed up.
Another issue, Pumphrey says, is the uphill battle he faces in just getting some customers to visit the restaurant, given Brooklyn’s gruff reputation, which he thinks is undeserved. In all his time working in the neighborhood, “We’ve never had a single problem.” He encourages visitors, “Prioritize your safety and you’re going to be fine.”
When he does eventually reopen, Pumphrey says he will likely rename the business The Smoking Swine.